Article by Guest Poster
This article was written by a guest contributor. The author's views below are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of WHSR.
Ten years ago, the situation was quite different from the one we are witnessing today. SEOs were supposed to deal with keywords and links mostly and there was a clear-cut work to be done.
Nowadays, SEO has gone social, while still retaining some of its older characteristics, which resulted in a nearly impossible position that SEOs have found themselves in – they are supposed to do way too many different tasks in order to really gain exposure for the website they are working on.
As if that was not enough, the increased use of languages other than English (like Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese) on the Internet made things even more complicated. Buckle your seat-belts, we need to optimize for foreign markets in foreign languages!
Actually, what you need to do is expand your team, since SEO has long since stopped being a one man’s work. One can no longer rely only on their own skills, because people who are capable of both technical SEO and social SEO are very rare, and, aside from that, even if you have the skills you will definitely lack the time.
You need to have some team members who are more comfortable working solely with the website (on-page), others who are basically data consumers and analysts, as well as those who enjoy building and maintaining communities. Apart from that, for every local project you are carrying out around the world, you need at least one local SEO or a native speaker in your team.
By including more people and parsing the work that needs to be done according to skills, you get a good basis for what is to follow.
SEO can differ in many factors, but if the dominant search engine is Google, then you only deal with the language and the culture, as well as potential lack of keyword research and other tools you may need.
However, dealing with language and culture can sometimes prove difficult.
Culture can relate to a country (national culture), a distinct section of the community (sub-culture), or an organization (corporate culture). It is not something we are born with, but something we learn, and it includes values and norms, customs and traditions, beliefs and religions, rituals and artefacts (i.e. tangible symbols of a culture).
The best way to assess these differences and develop a strategy accordingly in order to avoid cultural barrier is the Terpstra and Sarathy Cultural Framework. What you as a marketer need to pay attention to most is the following:
Language – High-context vs. Low-context culture
A low-context culture is the one where most of the meaning is conveyed verbally (e.g. Australia), and a high-context culture is the one in which much attention is paid to non-verbal communication (e.g. Japan).
This may influence the way written content should be structured and the language should be used. Sometimes there are even differences int he way a female and a male should speak in different cultures, which also affects written content.
The religion may influence what is allowed in marketing, as well as what is acceptable. You must make sure the content is not offensive to any religious group in the given country. For this, you must be well informed. For example, In China in 2007 ( the year of the pig) all advertisements which contained pictures of pigs were banned. This was done to keep the harmony with the country’s Muslim population of around 2%.
Values and Attitudes
Values and attitudes mostly influence the way you will need to reformulate your message or slogan.
Here you need to take into consideration gender rolls, social classes and their impact on the society, as well as the government system in order to design your content in an appropriate way.
This aspect is simple – you need to find out what is considered beautiful in the target country.
One of the difficulties you may encounter is the lack of SEO tools in the given language. In such cases, you can have local developers build them for you. When it comes to keywords, Google’s keyword tool is usually sufficient.
All this being said, you are still supposed to stick to Google’s guidelines, though it is recommendable that you have a local SEO in your team instead of simply having a native speaker because some things may differ, like Google failing to notice certain things in Serbian that would certainly be noticed in English.
In China, people mostly use Baidu instead of Google. In that case, you need to know how the search engine works and which factors are taken into consideration for ranking. The language used is simplified Chinese, and you need to make sure that you use the same words for on-site and off-site optimization, if you do not want to be penalized. (source: Baidu SEO by Arnold Ma).
All the other factors to pay attention to are the same.
First of all, you need to do your research of the consumer/reader behavior and their habits in the market that you have a presence in or want to place your content in. It may very well be very different from what you are used to.
Secondly, you need to hire someone who knows the people, the customs and the law of that specific country, in order to avoid getting into trouble or simply messing up your campaign. An agency which specializes in these matters could be the best choice because it is the easiest way to avoid complications. If you are unable to do this, a person familiarized with all this will do.
Finally, translation and adaptation of the content itself has to be done professionally, so do not use automated translation programs. Different tools can be of help, such as translation memories, terminology databases, and corporate glossaries, but none of them can replace a native speaker who knows the culture and customs, and who can, where necessary, make references to the local culture and popular culture of the country.
Automated programs will most often get it wrong when it comes to idioms, collocations and set expressions, which does not happen when you hire a professional translator. If you need to, you should hire more than one person who is a native speaker of the given language, preferably both a translator and an SEO.
Make sure you have identified the core message and the most important aspects of the image you want to create of the company, and that these are translated and adapted in the right manner. If the image you want to create is clear both to you and to your team, the rest will come much easier.
Because different markets require different strategies, when it comes to content, you need to provide the appropriate content in the languages spoken within the respective markets. Fortune 500 companies realized this a long time ago, so why should you miss out on this chance for increasing the ROI, if you have a presence on the markets outside the English-speaking countries?